Elliott-Black Award Honored Dr. Frances Fox Piven
The American Ethical Union gives the Elliott-Black Award as a recognition and tribute to an individual or organization in the larger community who has made a significant ethical contribution to society at personal risk and hardship. The Elliott-Black Award was established in 1971 to honor two long-term and highly esteemed Leaders of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, the late John Lovejoy Elliott and Algernon D. Black. This year it was presented to Frances Fox Piven, who is tireless in her work against war and seeking ways to end poverty in the United States.
Dr. Francis Fox Piven has made a lasting commitment as an academic social theorist, writer, professor, and real-world activist to create a society in which all may thrive. She has been a consistent proponent of peace and justice from her efforts against the Viet Nam war to her analysis of the previous administration's military interventions. She wrote and co-authored books and articles that are historical and theoretical analyses of the role of welfare policy, about compelling insurgent social movements, contemporary attacks on social and regulatory policy, and voter disenfranchisement by electoral law and practices with impact on political party development.
As a veteran of the war on poverty and welfare-rights protests, Piven has led academic and activist opposition and has appeared in numerous public forums. These reforms resulted in a major reduction in extreme poverty, and also precipitated the current furor in the US over welfare reform. She was one of the founders of Human Serve, an organization that promoted voter registration by citizens when they applied for various government benefits or driver’s licenses. Historic blocks to voting were overcome and the approach was incorporated in the National Voter Registration Act.
Dr. Piven has been a professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York since 1982. She has always taught that social justice depends on economic justice. She is clear that improving the lives of the poor and oppressed requires actually ending poverty by involving the poor in acquiring power, not by charitable giving. This is in the spirit of Adler, Elliott, and Black who would applaud her life-long work.